EU states, Navalny allies raise concerns over critic’s health

4 months ago 35
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Alexey Navalny has been imprisoned in Russia since returning following an alleged poisoning attack last year.

European Union members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have called on Russia to grant medical care to jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny “as soon as possible”, according to the foreign ministers of the three countries.

“Disturbing reports on Navalny health condition. Access to health care is a basic right even of political prisoners,” the ministers posted on Twitter on Thursday. “We call on international community and [EU leaders] to speak up too.”

Their calls came after Navalny’s allies said they wanted proof that he was healthy after his lawyers were denied access to him.

Leonid Volkov, a close Navalny ally based in Lithuania, has said Navalny began to experience serious back pain last week, felt a numbness in his leg and has been unable to stand on it.

He was given two ibuprofen pills for the pain, Volkov said.

The Federal Penitentiary Service said earlier on Thursday that the 44-year-old opposition politician’s health was stable and satisfactory.

It said prisons in the Vladimir region, where Navalny is being held, had carried out medical examinations on inmates on Wednesday.

The checks had been conducted at inmates’ request, it said, and Navalny had been examined, too.

“His health is deemed stable and satisfactory, according to the results of the examination,” the penitentiary service said, according to the Interfax news agency.

But that statement did not satisfy Navalny’s allies.

“Now we are really worried,” Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation wrote on Twitter. “Even the Federal Penitentiary Service can’t call Navalny’s condition ‘good’.”

Nearly 160 cultural figures, including writers, musicians and film directors, published an open letter to the authorities on Thursday demanding Navalny’s lawyers be given access to him and that he be held in normal conditions.

They said they had “serious grounds to be concerned about his health and life”.

In particular, they demanded that the practice of waking him up every hour during the night due to his classification as a flight risk be ended.

The Kremlin said it was not following developments with Navalny’s health, which it said was a matter for prison authorities.

Navalny was jailed last month for two and a half years on charges he called politically motivated. He was arrested as he returned to Russia from Germany in January, where he had been recovering from what doctors said was nerve agent poisoning.

The West, including the European Court of Human Rights, has demanded Russia release Navalny. Moscow dismissed the court’s ruling as “unlawful” and has called similar appeals unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.

Navalny’s allies on Tuesday announced plans to stage what they hope will be the biggest anti-Kremlin street protest in modern Russian history soon, in a bid to have him released. The authorities have said such protests are illegal.

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